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Between 2005 and 2011, IMC published Daily Tips every weekday on consulting ethics, marketing, service delivery and practice management. You may search more than 800 tips on this website using keywords in "Search all posts" or clicking on a tag in the Top Tags list to return all tips with that specific tag. Comment on individual tips (members and registered guests) or use the Contact Us form above to contact Mark Haas CMC, FIMC, Daily Tips author/editor. Daily Tips are being compiled into several volumes and will be available through IMC USA and Mark Haas.

 

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#126: When to Drop a Service from Your Practice

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, September 7, 2009
Updated: Monday, September 7, 2009
We offer several services to clients around teambuilding, organizational assessments, and leadership and culture transformations. We occasionally introduce new services and products but are unclear which ones will be winners because each seems to have some clients who like them. How can we tell which ones to invest in and which to drop if they all sell reasonably well?

There are emotional and logical aspects to this problem. First, you developed a new service because you saw a need in the marketplace and/or you had a capability and a passion to provide a service. Your company committed resources to its development and market testing then, with high hopes, you launched it to at least modest success. This is the emotional part, having invested both desire and hope into a new way to provide services.

The second, logical, part is the financial aspect of running your business. You are a consultant because you want to help clients improve their leadership and culture, but you do so as a business. In any "helping profession" like management consulting, many of us would provide the services we do for free if we were independently wealthy. Hence the quandary when we deliver a service in which we are emotionally invested but one that does not produce much in the way of profits. The trick is to set up the conditions for deciding to invest or terminate before you launch, and stick to them.

Tip: Part of your planning for a new service must be the profitability of that service. If you are selling a service at a bare minimum, you are starving other services for which you could be making a much larger profit - and whose value to clients is much larger. Two points. First, you need to really understand how much a service is costing you to provide. This means tracking full costs of marketing, administration, and delivery and weighing this against revenues and risk. Second, set some standards for how you will evaluate your service's profitability and when. Usually, if you don't have a demonstrably successful product launch (when enthusiasm is highest and you target your best prospects) the likelihood for increased profitability is lower. Be realistic about your natural inclination to think "costs will decrease with experience" and “more clients will come once they hear about this service." This may be true, but if your service doesn't make the grade with your best shot, drop it and improve your most client-valued services.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  innovation  market research  marketing  planning  product development  your consulting practice 

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#125: Good Enough Consulting

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, September 4, 2009
I am noticing that clients seem to be looking for the “basic package” instead of the fully loaded model of consulting services. I suspect this is largely due to the economic conditions but wonder if this is a trend.

Casey Stengel once said, "Never make predictions, especially about the future." As described in Clayton Christensen's book The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book that Will Change the Way You Do Business, there is always room for disruptive technologies that provide just what the client wants. These are not necessarily the more sophisticated or complex ones. In decision-making strategies, this is called satisficing as compared to maximizing. Give the buyer what they want, not everything they can use. I suspect that the attention-focusing effect of a unprecedented (in most people's lives) economic downturn makes people ask "what do I really need here?" and not be carried away with the latest fad or presumably piling on more services in the hope of reducing risk of being wrong. As a tangent, consider the use of multiple expert witnesses in legal disputes and "defensive medicine" in which it is arguable whether marginal benefit exceeds marginal cost.

It is unclear whether this represents a permanent change in buyer behavior, but we can glean some insight from similar trends in consumer purchasing. A tangible example is in consumer electronics. If you are tuned in to things digital, you will recognize this powerful trend. After pushing technology to heights unimaginable only a few years ago, consumers have spoken loudly that they really just want simple. See The Good Enough Revolution: When Cheap and Simple Is Just Fine. Kindle, Skype, and Flip are all technologies that are fabulous for doing what people want. Are your offering at least some consulting services that are “good enough” or are you pushing only the “solid gold?”

Tip: You may want to have a conversation with prior clients about how they feel today about consulting services. If you have a good relationship with them, they will appreciate the conversation. Ask how they would scope your prior consulting engagement if it were conducted today. Would they retain you at all? Would they break up the engagement into smaller pieces? Would they source it to different consultants? Would they just do it in house or not at all? What are the “good enough” services that you could provide and would they be more attractive to clients?

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  client relations  client service  consultant role  marketing  product development  trends  your consulting practice 

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#121: Will a Virtual Team Really Work Well Together?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, August 31, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, September 1, 2009
I have just completed a bid on a project for which we assembled a half dozen specialists. Only a few of us have ever worked together before and I have some concerns about our ability to work well together when the project starts.

As clients look more for the right expertise, whether or not it is in a single firm, virtual teams are becoming more common. It is often best to work with people whose ethics you trust and technical skills you respect and people with whom you have already worked. However, this is not always possible and, on some highly specialized tasks, you must assemble the best people even if you don't know them. This is usually the responsibility of the engagement manager, who plumbs his or her networks to create a team. There are two ways to get a sense of how well a virtual team is actually going to work.

First, to what extent do you trust the ethics and business skills of the engagement manager? Is this someone with whom you have worked before? Was anything said or done during the development of the project approach or costing that gave you pause about this person? Would you trust this person to take over one of your engagements and expect good client services from them with your best clients? If so, then you passed the first test.

Second, how was it to work with the other team members? Was it a professional experience, with clear and easy communication? Did each person deliver on their responsibilities and effort, or were some reluctant to do their share? Were they respectful and generous in their approach to offering criticism and suggestions? Even if you have never met them, can you create a mental picture of them with some comfort? If so, then this bodes well for a professional and productive engagement.

Tip: When you find yourself invited to participate in an engagement pursuit, make a mental (or written) list of the criteria you would use in selecting a business partner. As you begin to work with the virtual team in developing technical and costing approaches, check off which individuals meet your criteria and which ones fall short. If you are not getting any information about a particular person or about one of your important criteria, dig a little deeper. Soon, you will have a good idea whether your new teammates are ones you can trust and respect. If they come up short in several areas, reconsider (quickly) if being part of this team is in your best interest.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  collaboration  consulting colleagues  ethics  marketing  proposals  teaming  virtual teams 

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#119: Managing the Consultant's Social Networking Image

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, August 27, 2009
I know that employers now examine a candidate's Facebook page to glean insights into their character. Do you think clients do the same for consultants they are considering retaining?

I am not aware of this happening but if I were researching consultants, I would look up their LinkedIn page first, then Facebook, then one or two others, depending on the industry or disciplinary focus. If I were the CEO of a nonprofit, I might look to see if they had a presence on Care2, or one of the newer business sites (e.g., Ziggs, Ecademy, or Focus).

These social networking sites are increasingly important because they are more regularly indexed by search engines (because of the constant addition of content) than most consultants' websites. So, when a client looks for "Pat Jones consultant supply chain security," they are increasingly likely to come across you in a social media site before your own website.

Tip: This is not just making sure your personal and company profiles are current and accurate. We've heard stories about job offers to recent college grads being rescinded after an employer saw their Facebook page, so we don't need to talk about profile content. However, of more interest to clients may be the dialog and ideas you provide in discussion forums. Your knowledge and perspective (and communication skills) are why your client presumably wants your services. Being part of the discussion in your discipline or industry can build your reputation, but flaming people or offering uninformed or poorly communicated posts can cause a client to have second thoughts.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand management  communication  marketing  networks  professionalism  prospect  publicity 

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#105: Have Business Cards Passed Their Expiration Date

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, August 6, 2009
I used to use a lot of business cards but not lately. Are business cards still useful?

The business card custom started a long time ago and were used in a very different way than they are used today. What we now call business cards started as "tradecards" in early 17th century England. Because there were few newspapers or public advertising, these tradecards often contained a map or directions to a merchant's place of business. Two things changed over the centuries. First, the number of businesses multiplied into the millions, with each merchant having their own cards. Second, the use of the cards expanded into social arenas and were termed "calling cards." In this case, cards were handed out to those one visited as well as would be given to someone to whom you want to be introduced. Eventually, everyone seemed to have business cards and used them liberally.

Only you can determine whether business cards create value for your business, but I see drastically lower use than even a decade ago. Part of the reason is the availability of business information through search on the Internet. Also, the "networking mixer," although still conducted, is less popular than a decade ago, resulting in fewer pocketfuls of business cards than a decade ago. Instead of handing someone a business card, you can even beam your contact information from your phone.

Tip: One practice that can increase the value of your business card is to include more than just your contact information. After a business trip, conference or large meeting, how likely are you to remember the details of each person whose card you now have? Use the reverse side of the card to list your services, explain your brand, or make a specific call to action. This will make it more likely that the recipient of your card will both remember and act on the card in the way you intended.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  marketing  publicity  sales 

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